FemArt Festival in Pristina encourages conversation, demands change

Story by Rrita Hashani. 

Some quotes are translated from Albanian and may not be exact quotations.  

The sixth annual FemArt Festival, titled “Run The Show,” hit the streets last week in Pristina, Kosovo. The festival included everything from art galleries and concerts to conferences and panels.

The festival occurred three months after the three billboards in Pristina asked “How many more missed calls?” referring to the deaths of Diana Kastrati and Zejnepe Bytyqi. The Kosovar women had reported domestic abuse by their husbands but the police did not respond. The two were later murdered by their husbands.

Many factors cause the incompetent justice system in Kosovo. The country’s unresolved political status since Kosovo’s independence from Serbia in 2008 is a large contributor as well as the social ideology of a woman’s “place” that is still passed down from generation to generation.

In 2016, the Directorate of Police in Community and Prevention reported that the police received 870 reports of domestic violence, mostly against women. Furthermore, the Agency for Gender Equality estimates up to 90 percent of domestic violence cases go unreported.

Organizations like Artpolis, the NGO behind FemArt, are starting the conversation on domestic violence and women’s rights but there is a long way to go.

“These discussions and panel conferences are just repeating themselves”, says Agnesa Qermini of the Kosovar Youth Council. “They’re talking about it but they’re not putting these things in act or acting about it.”

Qermini is referring to FemArt’s conference “Justice for Murdered Women as a Result of Domestic Violence.” The panel included activist Igballe Rugova, Annette M. Fath-Lihic of the EU and many more speaking on women’s rights and the need for a strict implementation of the laws.

Former President Atifete Jahjaga attended as well, and spoke on how the government is “systematically able to perpetuate violence.”

“At least five women were killed where no one was found guilty. The justice system buried those women alive.”

Hilmi Jashari, lawyer and ombudsman of the Kosovo Assembly, shared that the justice system in Kosovo is “overwhelmed.”

Whether it be the legislation or the disconnect between the law and the police, Vjosa Osmani of the Kosovo Assembly states it may be time to “change the constitution”altogether.

Obviously, there is no simple fix to the legal issues or cultural patriarchy in Kosovo but organizations like Artpolis and festivals like FemArt hope to set foundations for drastic change.

One of the fathers of the slain women (we were not able to catch his name) said to the panel, “I am not fighting just for my daughter. She’s gone. I am fighting for my other four daughters and the 400,000 Kosovar daughters I have.”

 

FemArt's "Run The Show" flyer, found on their  website .

FemArt's "Run The Show" flyer, found on their website.